SILVERDOCS: AFI/Discovery Channel Documentary Festival has announced the competition films for the 2008 Festival, taking place June 16-23, 2008 in the Washington, DC area. New this year, SILVERDOCS adds a World Competition in recognition of the richness of documentary storytelling globally and the value of diverse perspectives on the human experience. SILVERDOCS 2008 will present 108 films representing 63 countries selected from 1,861 submissions with six World, eight North American, six US, seven East Coast Premieres and two retrospective programs.

“Documentary film often represents the best, sometimes the only, way for audiences to experience authentic stories capturing contemporary global culture. SILVERDOCS’s new World Feature section reflects our commitment to highlighting global perspectives,” said Festival Director Patricia Finneran.

“The 2008 program represents the very best the documentary form has to offer, gives voice to the most compelling issues of the day and reflects the diversity of the filmmakers’ approach to storytelling,” said Director of Programming Sky Sitney. “Some are told with political urgency, others through a personal lens; some with humor, others with music, but all offer a major contribution to the genre and to our shared human experience.”

The Festival will again honor the best film in the Music Documentary section. Films screen in six sections: US Feature Competition, World Feature Competition, Music Documentary, Short Film Competition, the to-be-announced Silver Spectrum and a special thematic side-bar for 2008.

SILVERDOCS confers three additional awards presented annually at the Festival:

  • The Cinematic Vision Award will be given to a feature film that exhibits excellence and innovation in the craft of visual storytelling ($2,500).
  • The WITNESS Award in honor of Joey Lozano will be awarded to a theatrical documentary that addresses human rights and social justice issues ($5,000).
  • The SILVERDOCS/American Film Market Award will be presented to a film of exceptional promise in the media marketplace and will include special access to the American Film Market and accommodations ($5,000 value).

SILVERDOCS and ACE/Animal Content in Entertainment will again present a development grant, initiated in 2006, which has increased to $25,000 for 2008. The awards join those for films in competition. The new awards bring the combined cash and in-kind prizes at SILVERDOCS to $65,000.

Award winners will be announced at the SILVERDOCS Award presentation on Saturday June 21, 2008. All films are also eligible for Audience awards for Best Feature and Short, which will be announced on Sunday June 22, 2008.


BULLETPROOF SALESMAN / USA, 2008, 70 minutes (Director: Michael Tucker and Petra Epperlein)—For civilians, diplomats, and soldiers, roadside bombs in war-torn areas are a constant scourge. For Fidelis Cloer, they are a check in the mail. Cloer sells armored vehicles to the highest bidder, and his business acumen provides a disturbingly simple and unsentimental context in which to understand international conflict.

CHEVOLUTION / USA, 2008, 90 minutes (Director: Luis Lopez and Trisha Ziff)—Songs and films pay tribute to Ernesto “Che” Guevara, but he lives on most famously through Alberto Korda’s photograph of his somber yet fiercely proud face. This vibrant study of the image that has outlived the man traces the construction of a mythology launched by a revolution, adopted by worldwide rebellion, and exploited by capitalism.

FOUR SEASONS LODGE / USA, 2008, 109 minutes (Director: Andrew Jacobs)—For decades, a group of Holocaust survivors has met every summer at a bucolic Catskills bungalow colony, despite their ever-dwindling ranks. In what may be their final season together, the lodgers cook, flirt, argue, dance and share stories of loss and survival, while the fate of their community remains uncertain. World Premiere.

THE GARDEN / USA, 2008, 95 minutes (Director: Scott Hamilton Kennedy)—Rising up from the ashes of 1992’s devastating L.A. riots is a 14-acre oasis in one of the country’s most blighted neighborhoods. The South Central Farmers created the garden to provide fresh produce for low-income people. Now, as bulldozers are poised to level it, the farmers won’t give up without a fight. World Premiere.

HARD TIMES AT DOUGLASS HIGH / USA, 2007, 112 minutes (Director: Alan and Susan Raymond)—A year inside Baltimore’s Frederick Douglass High School shows the parts of a broken public education system: dedicated administrators, harried—but present—teachers, and students trying to get by. But isn’t the shaky foundation of the social system outside the school’s walls—marked by poverty, broken homes and lack of opportunity—a set-up for failure? World Premiere.

HERB & DOROTHY / USA, 2008, 85 minutes (Director: Megumi Sasaki)—He’s a postal clerk. She’s a librarian. Despite their modest means, they are the most important contemporary art collectors you’ve never heard of. Meet Herbert and Dorothy Vogel, whose shared passion and discipline defied stereotypes and redefined what it means to be a patron of the arts. World Premiere.

IN THE FAMILY / USA, 2008, 83 minutes (Director: Joanna Rudnick)—Would you surrender your ability to give life if you knew it might save your own? A genetic test has told 27-year-old Joanna Rudnick that she will most likely develop breast and ovarian cancer. Now she must decide if she will take the pre-emptive step of having her breasts and ovaries removed. US Premiere.

KASSIM THE DREAM / USA, 2008, 87 minutes (Director: Kief Davidson)—Kassim Ouma was born in Uganda, kidnapped by the rebel army and trained to be a child soldier at age 6. After a decade of warfare, he defected and began a new life in the U.S., quickly becoming a world champion boxer. Kief Davidson captures Ouma’s passions, tragedies, victories, and emotional and geographic journeys.

PRAY THE DEVIL BACK TO HELL / USA, 2008, 72 minutes (Director: Gini Reticker)— An inspiring chronicle of the thousands of Liberian women who peacefully ended the war in their country that killed over 250,000 people. Non-violent protests, sit-ins, and organizational acumen resulted in disarmament and the 2005 election of President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf.

TROUBLE THE WATER / USA, 2008, 95 minutes (Director: Tia Lessin and Carl Deal)—Kimberly Roberts bought a camcorder off the street for $20 just a week before Hurricane Katrina hit her hometown of New Orleans. Veteran filmmakers Tia Lessin and Carl Deal weave together Roberts’ footage with their own into an evocative dialogue that reveals a powerful, heart-wrenching, infuriating and ultimately inspiring survival story.

US Feature Jury: Sandi Dubowski, Filmmaker and writer (TREMBLING BEFORE G-D); Ramona Diaz, Filmmaker (IMELDA, SPIRITS RISING); Mila Aungh Thwin, Filmmaker and Producer (CHAIRMAN GEORGE)


COMEBACK / Germany, 2007, 79 minutes (Director: Maximilian Plettau)—German boxer Jürgen Hartenstein is a 35-year-old former middleweight champion hoping to re-enter the sport in this quiet and lovingly crafted film. Max Plettau’s camera unobtrusively follows Hartenstein as he struggles to revive his career. Hartenstein’s gentle demeanor and unassuming lifestyle elevate his ambition to a noble quest that we are privileged to witness. North American Premiere.

CORRIDOR #8 / Bulgaria, 2008, 74 minutes (Director: Boris Despodov)—The saying “you can’t get there from here” never rang more true than in this fabulously droll road trip across Bulgaria, Albania and Macedonia on Corridor #8—the Balkan antithesis of Route 66. This massive infrastructure project, commissioned by the EU, was designed to connect the Black and Adriatic seas and lift the economic hopes of the working-class residents along its route. But a decade and millions of euros later, little progress has been made.

THE ENGLISH SURGEON / United Kingdom/Ukraine, 2007, 94 minutes (Director: Geoffrey Smith)—British neurosurgeon Henry Marsh resides in an idyllic English village, but he spends several weeks a year in Ukraine performing surgeries with the crudest of tools in a country where neurosurgery barely exists. His skills have saved innumerable lives, yet Dr. Marsh refuses to slow down until he’s saved every possible life. East Coast Premiere.

FOUR WIVES – ONE MAN / Iran, 2007, 76 minutes (Director: Nahid Persson)—A poignant, occasionally hilarious, often harrowing glimpse into an institution oft undertaken but rarely understood—marriage. As the title suggests, this is no conventional marriage, with four wives, dozens of children, and one domineering mother-in-law, all competing for the attention of one man. North American Premiere.

HEAD WIND / Iran, 2008, 65 minutes (Director: Mohammad Rasoulof)—If satellite dishes are illegal in Iran, then why are so many Iranians watching Hollywood blockbusters? This fascinating film reveals a fast-growing subculture determined to gain access to Western media by any means necessary. Acclaimed Iranian filmmaker Rasoulof illuminates the growing disparity between what Iranians want and what their Islamic leaders will allow.

THE INFINITE BORDER / Mexico, 2007, 90 minutes (Director: Juan Manuel Sepúlveda)—Some migrants exude a determination that points less to the promise of a bright future and more to an escape from a troubled past. In this visually stunning yet unromantic account of their journey, migrants face starvation and dismemberment on the road from Central America to Mexico and finally to the United States. US Premiere.

MECHANICAL LOVE / Denmark, 2007, 79 minutes (Director: Phie Ambo)—How far we are prepared to go when human intimacy becomes a rare commodity? Robots promise to make our lives easier, but for some people they can be a stand-in for human affection. This fascinating film explores the intimate and complex relationships between people and therapeutic robots.
US Premiere.

MILOSEVIC ON TRIAL / Denmark, 2007, 69 minutes (Director: Michael Christofferson)—When former Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic was on trial for crimes against humanity, he acted as his own counsel. Perhaps his most masterful move in the trial was dieing of a heart attack before its conclusion. Michael Christoffersen captures the trial and its defendant, from its historic beginnings to its bizarre end.

MY LIFE INSIDE / Mexico, 2007, 120 minutes (Director: Lucia Gaja)—The tragic story of Rosa, a Mexican citizen living illegally in Texas, addresses the contentious issue of illegal immigration and the pitfalls of the judicial system. Accused of murdering a child under her care, Rosa must battle a system that is as foreign to her as she is to it.

THE RED RACE / China/Germany, 2008, 70 minutes (Director: Chao Gan)—Against the backdrop of the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics and escalating international condemnation over Chinese policies from Tibet to Darfur, THE RED RACE presents a microscopic insight into the Chinese passion for gymnastics. In training centers, there’s no time for childish games as these aspiring Olympians carry their parents’ and their country’s dreams on their tiny shoulders.
World Premiere.

World Feature Jury,: Steve James, Filmmaker (HOOP DREAMS, STEVIE); Almadena Carrecedo, Filmmaker (MADE IN LA, WELCOME, A DOCU-JOURNEY OF IMPRESSIONS); Igor Blazevic, Director, One World, International Human Rights Documentary Festival and co-director of ten documentaries for Czech Television.


HI MY NAME IS RYAN / USA, 2008, 78 minutes (Director: Paul Eagleston and Stephen Rose)—Cherubic 19-year-old alt-culture renaissance man Ryan Avery is the best thing that happened to the downtown Phoenix art scene since native son Alice Cooper. Though Avery seems destined for an artist’s life, he’s grappling with a different calling. A devout member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, he has chosen to forgo his madcap antics for a religious mission. Yet, with what some might call a god-given gift, Avery must learn to reconcile his two competing callings. North American Premiere.

LA PALOMA / Germany/France, 2008, 88 minutes (Director: Sigrid Faltin)—Long before corporate distribution and file-sharing fused music with globalization, songs traversed the globe. LA PALOMA follows Sebastián de Iradier’s 1861 song, La Paloma, from the Basque country to Latin America, Hawaii, back to Europe, and finally to Africa. In each country, the tune remained while the meaning changed dramatically.

LIFE. SUPPORT. MUSIC. / USA, 2008, 79 minutes (Director: Eric Daniel Metzgar)—At 34, Jason Kriglin has found his calling––making music––and the love of his life––his wife. Suddenly, a massive stroke leaves him in a vegetative state. This is a story of his tenacity, the determined power of familial love, and how music inspires and gives voice to that which words cannot.

SONG SUNG BLUE / USA, 2008, 87 minutes (Director: Greg Kohs)—Decked out in sequined outfits, Mike & Claire Sardina, AKA “Lightning & Thunder,” play to hooting crowds at Milwaukee bars and clubs. But when a freak accident leaves Claire immobile, their Vegas dreams are replaced by a reality of rehabilitation, unpaid bills, drug addiction and lost hopes. Will Lightning only strike once?

THROW DOWN YOUR HEART / USA, 2008, 97 minutes (Director: Sascha Paladino)—American banjo virtuoso Béla Fleck travels to Africa to explore the little-known roots of the instrument and record an album. Fleck’s riveting journey takes him through Uganda, Tanzania, The Gambia, and Mali, where he transcends the barriers of language and culture through a shared passion for music.

WILD COMBINATION / USA, 2008, 71 minutes (Director: Matt Wolf)—This visually absorbing film looks at the seminal avant-garde composer, singer-songwriter, cellist and disco producer Arthur Russell. Before his AIDS-related death, Russell created music that spanned pop and the transcendent possibilities of abstract art—a legacy that richly deserves this hip and hypnotic visual tone poem.

Music Documentary Jury: To Be Announced.

The Festival also presents a Sterling Award for Best Short, in recognition of this increasingly acclaimed art form. The Short Film program will be released in the subsequent program announcement. Shorts programmed in SILVERDOCS have gone on to be nominated for an Academy Award each year of the Festival. THE BLOOD OF YINGZHOU DISTRICT, directed by Ruby Yang, which had its world premiere at SILVERDOCS 2006, received the Academy Award for Best Documentary Short and 2007’s FREEHELD won the Oscar.

Short Film Jury: Ryan Harrington, Gucci Tribeca Documentary Fund; Sarah Price, Filmmaker (SUMMERCAMP, THE YES MEN); A.J. Schnack, Filmmaker and Writer (KURT COBAIN ABOUT A SON)

The Festival’s signature program, the Charles Guggenheim Symposium, honors the legacy of the late four-time Academy Award winning filmmaker, Charles Guggenheim, by recognizing a filmmaker who shares the same artistic excellence and profound respect for humanity and democratic values. In 2008, the Symposium will honor Spike Lee, an Emmy Award-winning and Academy Award-nominated director, producer, writer and actor with more than 35 films to his credit. His documentary work includes: WHEN THE LEVEES BROKE: A REQUIEM IN FOUR ACTS (2006); 4 LITTLE GIRLS (1997); and WE WUZ ROBBED (2000).

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